Released from duty at the most civilized time of 2pm when the rest of the crew would likely be staying until around 10pm on a show night, I hopped into my car happily knowing that I had at least one (maybe two) days off. Oh, I could get so much accomplished! (Yes, yes, we all know it’s all I can barely do to hit the Mickey D’s drive-thru in my jammies on an entire hiatus week, but hey, this girl dreams HUGE!) And nestling Cecilia into her space next to the neighbor’s white picket fence adorned with flowering bougainvillea, placing her gear into “park” and turning off her ignition, all was right with the world.
…until I made THE classic Cosmic rookie mistake…
“I’ve got the EASIEST job in the WORLD!” I squealed out loud to Cecilia whilst protectively clasping her shiny red “The Club” onto her 1997 steering column.
But before I could even begin to try to rewind and suck the words back out of the spoken-word-world, they had already taken effect.
(It’s been my experience that nothing pisses-off The Universe more than taking anything for granted!)
Already the red demonic glow had returned to my purse pocket containing the cell phone; already I had missed two calls and one text; and entering my home I found the landline already blinking its own private crimson voodoo hex.
“Hey Pen, wondered if you happen to be available to work tomorrow. I’m running around a lot so just text me.”
Hmm… Pajamas? Paycheck. Pajamas? Paycheck. Voodoo curse? Paycheck. (One would have thought this was a no-brainer, but yeah, “paycheck” finally won after a five minute mental debate.)
“Great!” my AD called back. “So you’ll be standing-in for one of our recurring guest stars who is HYSTERICAL! We need you for the table-read and we’ll see how it goes from there and whether or not we use you for the next two days. We’d like to give you a hundred dollar bump for the day, and messenger over tomorrow’s script to you tonight, plus a couple of DVDs so you can get a feel for her character.”
(A HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!)
Wallowing in my future incoming riches like Zsa Zsa Gabor in pearls and a silk nightgown (sweat pants and a t-shirt), and hearing that my script was about to be hand-delivered as I lolled on a chaise lounge enjoying a pedicure (one of our PAs called from outside while I was playing with my kitty’s toes), I gave permission to the guard outside my gated compound to allow the driver onto the secure premises (I padded outside and accepted the envelope).
All that remained for the evening was to sit back, watch approximately 66 minutes of comedy, read a script and manage to make my way into work the next day by 11:00am. Easy-peasy!
Unfortunately, as The Universe would once again have its sadistic comedic way with me for taking even my simple evening for granted, I discovered much to my dismay that not only did my main DVD player die for no reason whatsoever, but also that the drawer for DVDs on my laptop had apparently been cursed by Lord Voldemort during a previous viewing of a Harry Potter film and subsequently obstinately refused to open.
Scurrying off in a mild panic to Best Buy for an emergency DVD player, friendly sales associate Steve approached me most calmly. “How can I help you?” he asked as I dabbed some unpleasant sweat off my upper lip. And telling him what I needed, what TV I had at home, and asking for the simplest possible installation, he guided me to a $40 box and one cable to connect, showing me the input/output thingamajig so as to make the process even simpler. And with sincere gratitude, I thanked him profusely for his knowledge, his time and all of his help.
Having (repeatedly) watched three episodes of our guest star the night before, I felt I had a decent sense of her unique comedic delivery. Certainly I would never be able to replicate her facial expressions by any means, but having the opportunity to hear her, I was feeling rather pressure-free heading off to the table reading in the Green Room.
Eying the placard with my name printed on the back, my character’s name on the flip-side for the “audience”, I took my designated seat at the front of the room, aluminum water bottle by my side, pencil in hand. (I thought it was a nice touch to look professional as I scanned my script for the millionth time.)
I could feel my heart pounding a bit – not so much from anxiety at my introduction to a seasoned Network who were unfamiliar with my abilities, but moreso from my poor choice of having half of a nerve-calming ciggy before ascending a gazillion stairs. (Stupid, stupid, stupid! Pink-lunged-youth of the world; don’t smoke!)
Yet I was confident that I was prepared. After all, if I totally sucked then I already knew in advance I’d be replaced. At least I’d still have a hundred bucks for my troubles! In truth, all I really had to do was stick loyally to the script, focus, keep my head down while the VIPs filed in and avoid eye contact with absolutely everyone.
(This is a technique I discovered decades ago as I watched a new-comer to the Biz attempt to hug/schmooze each and every Suit in the room. FYI to new-comers, Suits don’t want to be hugged. Suits don’t want to be your friend. Suits don’t even want to be approached. Suits simply want you to do your job as a meat puppet, make them laugh for less than half an hour and then be out the door in time for their lunch reservations. I speak from first-hand knowledge having witnessed such a horrific display of inappropriate affection, and found myself standing-in for the fired unfortunate new-comer exactly one hour after her well-acted table read. Good actress! Bad sense of boundaries…)
But I digress!
“Penny’s gonna read her part? Good for you Penny!” my lovely Actress cheered sincerely as the rest of the cast began to take their seats.
*insert shot of my thankful beaming smile at her for her confidence in me*
Punching me casually on the shoulder, another cast member wandered by offering a ‘knuckle bump and blow it out’ greeting as he welcomed me back with a nonchalant “good to see ya again!”
*insert shot of proper ‘knuckle bump and blow it out’ with said tiny blonde actor who clearly didn’t realize that I wasn’t the actual guest star, nor did he recognize me from being on set the day before (or the last two weeks)*
“You too” I responded awkwardly as he walked away, turning my attention immediately back to the script whilst hoping beyond hope for no further eye contact or interaction with anyone else.
And feeling the presence of our lead Actor taking the seat to my right, I continued to burrow my face in the script until I couldn’t withstand it any longer…
Adopting his signature furrowed brow, tucked-in chin and eerie smile (whilst mentally drilling a hole into my cranium with his penetrating stare) I had no physical choice but to eventually glance up and meet his steely gaze.
*insert shot of absolute mortal terror*
“Good morning Penny” he nodded officiously in character with one raised eyebrow.
“Good morning” I replied cautiously (terribly uncertain as to whether or not this was yet another Cosmic punishment), as he continued to stare all the way into what might have eventually become a seriously creepy moment.
“Oh, I’m just messing with you!” he finally smiled normally, putting me at ease and actually making me feel welcome like a new teenager at the Adult’s table on Thanksgiving Day.
In the end, I guess I did OK.
I was invited to continue to stand-in for our guest star for the next two days ($100.00 bump per day!!!); my lovely Actress had graciously complimented me on my comedic delivery, and even Mr. Furrowed Brow had patted me heartily on the back, adding a spontaneous “way to knock it out of the park, kiddo!”
Surviving both the Producer and Network Run-Thrus Thursday and Friday, I once again wheeled Cecilia next to the white picket fence as the purple bougainvillea welcomed us home in full bloom regalia.
Perhaps challenging the Cosmos was a good choice!
Maybe I had made some sort of significant soul-enriching advancement by boldly standing-in/standing-up to The Universe.
I was brave! I was strong! Nay, I was COURAGEOUS!
And whipping out a Friday New York Times crossword puzzle to further prove my brilliant ‘genius-ness’, I filled in precisely one answer before my eyes went woozy and without any warning whatsoever, fell immediately asleep adrenaline-exhausted mid-afternoon with my kitty for the next two and a half hours.
(Perhaps it’s best not to push The Universe too much…)
Cheers to overcoming whatever may challenge you today,